Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New CRISPR technology 'knocks out' yeast genes with single-point precision

CRISPR-Cas9, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a gene editing technology that has been thriving in the scientific community because of it’s multipurpose usages, efficiency and accuracy, as it can cut, alter or delete a base of a targeted gene in a DNA sequence. Researchers are using this tool to delete genes in yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to see how it affects the compound. Saccharomyces cerevisiae has about 6,000 genes and researchers want to study each gene, as an individual and combination, and are working to develop libraries of these yeast genes. Also, this could be useful to produce industrial applications like ethanol, biofuel, chemicals, lubricants, etc.

CRISPR technology is used for medical research, diagnostics and food products, and it’s an important technology, as it has been widely popular now and will be used for the future. A recent article I read that used CRISPR-Cas9 is being used to produce fruit and vegetables, to enhance with more nutrient, produce more product in a smaller area with drought stressed conditions. As a science major, it amazes me how we are always improving our limited resources on earth and to make sure that the future resources will be there for new generations. I am curious to see how researchers will use this tool to further progress it’s science usages.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180507174020.htm https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/pbi.12603

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Fight Against Malaria

In any hot and humid environment, a person can run come into contact with many flying insects, particularly with mosquitos. These pesky insects cause havoc from this bites, causing itches, and even sickness. Mosquitoes, however, have been known transmit and infect many with Malaria.

The disease, however, has been genetically identified. Scientists used piggyBac - transposon insertional mutagenesis to identify the genes that were associated with malaria. Parasites carrying malaria can now be readily identified and can potentially be treatable. Such a step can be help patients who are in dire straits when dealing with the diseases. Still, drug resistance is still a major problem, but using such a gene technique can allow for even better drug resistance and at the source. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Bacteria that kills off only male fruit flies

Scientist have been seeing a strange phenomenon that causes male fruit flies (Drosophila) to die. This was noticed during the 50's when they crossed two strains of the same fruit fly together only producing females. The geneticists believed it must have been from a mutation, however from further analysis it is seen now to be the cause of the endo-symbiotic bacteria Spiroplasma Poulsonii that stays inside the blood stream and later passes it onto the offspring from the oocytes. S.poulsonii is very specific in only ending of male embryos. There was no molecular mechanism that causes this yet, it was previously believed that they produce a kind of toxin (androcidin). Then Professor Bruno Lemaitre and Dr Toshiyuki Harumoto from EPFL found the gene named Spaid to encode protein that causes certain structures that localize on the X chromosome of male embryos then increasing the transcription of gene onto it. (1 &2)
Having that females have two XX chromosomes it is now understand why the males do not survive but the females are still able to. (1)
""To our knowledge, Spaid is the first bacterial effector protein identified to date that affects host cellular machinery in a sex-specific manner," says Harumoto. "And it is also, to our knowledge again, the first paper to identify an insect endosymbiont factor causing male killing. As such, we expect that it will have a big impact on the fields of symbiosis, sex determination and evolution."" (1)

(1) Male Drosophila die due to bacteria
(2) paper of male killing toxin in a bacterial symbiont of drosophila

The Musicality of Genetics

When Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the first Piano in 1655, music would forever be changed. The complex hand-eye coordination and muscle memory needed to play the piano is unprecedented and takes years to master, let alone learn. It is thought that the ability to learn, play, and understand music was genetically inherited; that the musically inclined have a gene needed to play such classics such as Bach and Chopin.

Dexterity and music ability are not necessarily inherent. One study found that about 50% of a 224 sample were found to be musically inclined. They were given standard musical aptitude tests that were designed to identify musical pitch and tone. Such an ability may seem trivial, but genetically, it can be found in almost anyone ranging from complete amateurs to people who have a background in music. Several DNA sequences were actually identified from the study and were correlated with music ability. One such sequence involved the hairs within a human ear in which vibrations could ascertain different pitch and sounds. It is still not conclusive to say genetics and music are inherent, since I play multiple instruments, and my family family struggles to even understand what they hear, but some generalizations on nature rather than nurture can be made. 

New genetic details may make roses smell like roses

An international team of researchers has discovered new genes and 22 uncharacterized steps that plants can take in the process that gives their flowers their fragrance. Because rose breeders tend to aim for plants that are more visually appealing, those plants that are known more for their fragrance have fallen off. This new paper focuses on "rosa chinensis" which is a contributor to modern hybrids and it has been found that the genes for scent and color tend to go against eachother. With this new knowledge in hand breeders can now have a better handle on trying to control the tradeoffs that occur when breeding for specifically showy colors in roses.

I find this interesting but also funny at the same time that a genetic fix has been discovered to make roses.... smell like.... roses. And that the initial reason for these same roses losing their original scent was because of crossbreeding(genetics). I wonder if this will be something that is done for other flowers, fruits, or vegetables that may have lost certain characteristics due to continuous cross-breeding.

Link: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/roses-scent-genetics-fragrance

2nd Link: https://www.zmescience.com/science/rose-genome-sequenced-30042018/

Are Turkish People Really Turkish?

In early 2018, the country of Turkey released its ever so tightly kept population register, dating back to Ottoman times with ancestry records going back as far as 1882. Much to their surprise, the Turkish citizens found that the government emphasis on being a “pure Turk”, was not true. Many are now finding that their ancestry ranges from Kurdish descent, to western European. A lot of the Ottoman Armenian citizens were killed in forced deportation in 1915, thus destroying a lot of the gene pool in the process. For years, the Ottomans worked off the millet system, in which different racial/religious groups (Muslims, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Jews) could not interact and produce offspring with one another. This caused a giant drop in genetic diversity. To combat this, they put into effect a population exchange in 1923, having 1.2 million Greeks in Turkey, and 300,000 Turks in Greece causing an exchange in genes between the two countries when producing offspring.

By releasing this information and making it public, the Turkish government has ended that prior thought that the Turkish ancestry was “pure”. These public articles are not to remind the Turks that their ancestry is not pure and that their lineage is also not pure, but to remind them to embrace their new profound culture and have pride in their newly discovered gene pool that they might have.

This article was a good read. It shows how life is not as always as it seems. In the case of the Turks, it’s a good example of genetic drift and cultural diversity in how different people from different cultures interconnect to produce offspring with a high genetic diversity.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Gray hair linked to immune system activity and viral infection

Researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), have discovered a connection between the gene that codes for hair color and the gene that tells our body we have a pathogenic infection. Melanocyte stem cells are what drive the pigmentation in your skin, eyes and hair, so if someone were suddenly getting a lot of gray hair, it would be because there is an error with the melanocyte stem cells. A transcription factor was discovered to help keep the melanocyte stem cells regulated and the interferon response in place. The transcription factor is called MITF, and if by chance the MITF factor tries to fix an interferon response and cannot accomplish the job, then the pigmentation is lost since the MITF cannot regulate the melanocyte stem cells and the hair becomes gray.
With this conclusion, it was revealed that genes that works to maintain pigmentation also serve to the immune system and any potential infections that could occur to attack the host. In my opinion, the future of this research finding could go in so many different directions, potentially the connection among the pigmentation and the immune system to discover what causes pigmentation diseases, where pigment is present in patches on the skin, to see what other research could be done to possibly reverse the process of gray hair. This kind of discovery could even explain extreme cases like albinism, no pigmentation in the skin at all, and if those people also have a poor immune system, as being another approach rather than looking at the melanocytes as the only possible explanation for the disease. This could also potentially explain further why younger people are starting to see gray hairs when their melanocyte stem cells should be working and functioning properly, then MITF could figure out the problem.

Genetic Engineering Turns a Common Plant into a Cancer Fighter

The Himalayan mayapple was the original source of Etoposide, a powerful anticancer compound.     Researchers report that they’ve engineered a common laboratory plant to produce the starting material for a potent chemotherapy drug originally harvested from an endangered Himalayan plant. The new work could ensure an abundant supply of the anticancer drug and make it easier for chemists to tweak the compound to come up with safer and more effective versions.

Throughout history, people have relied on plants for medicines. Even modern drugmakers get about half their new drugs from plants. But that’s harder to do when plants are slow growing and endangered, as is the Himalayan mayapple (Podophyllum hexandrum). The short, leafy plant was the original source of podophyllotoxin, a cytotoxic compound that’s the starting point for an anticancer drug called Etoposide. The drug has been on the U.S. market since 1983 and is used to treat dozens of different cancers, from lymphoma to lung cancer. Today, podophyllotoxin is mainly harvested from the more common American mayapple. But this plant is also slow growing, producing only small quantities of the compound.

Elizabeth Sattely and her graduate student Warren Lau reasoned that the podophyllotoxin-building proteins were likely themselves only made by the plant in response to an injury. So the pair made tiny punctures in the leaves of healthy Himalayan mayapples, testing them before and after to see which new proteins appeared around the damaged tissue. They discovered 31, which they categorized by probable function. The pair then narrowed the likely candidates for enzymes in podophyllotoxin production by focusing on members of four classes known to carry out the right types of chemical reactions. They then spliced genes for each of these enzymes into bacteria known to infect Nicotiana benthamiana, a fast-growing relative of tobacco that serves as a sort of lab rat of plant biologists. The bacteria readily infect tobacco and insert their genes into the plant tissue. Sattely and Lau inserted numerous combinations of genes for the enzymes they thought might produce their desired compound. As they report, they eventually found a group of 10 enzymes that allowed the plant to make a molecule called (-)-4’–desmethyl-epipodophyllotoxin, a direct precursor to Etoposide and a potent cancer drug in its own right.